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Faculty Lecture: Water - The New Oil?

Interested in the impact of climate change on the sustainable use of natural resources? If so, don't forget to reserve your place for Louise Heathwaite's lecture on Monday 26 March. With climate change threatening harsher droughts and water scarcity, Professor Heathwaite will look at questions surrounding the future use of the world's finite water supply.

The lecture will take place on in the Biology Lecture Theatre. Email Pauline Roberts for details.

Funding Roundup

Newly funded research from across the faculty:

Linking environmental fate and behaviour studies with the toxicology and epidemiology of organic pollutants

Gareth Thomas - Environmental Science - NERC - 46,113

This is a 'Discipline-hopping' grant from the NERC Environment and Human Health programme (joint funded by NERC, EA, Defra, the MoD, MRC, The Wellcome Trust, ESRC, BBSRC, EPSRC and HPA).Gareth Thomas will spend 6 months at the Institute of Risk Analysis Science (IRAS) at Utrecht University (in the Netherlands), studying a broad range of theoretical and practical aspects of toxicology and epidemiology at this leading research institute.

The objectives are to establish strong collaborative links between Lancaster University and IRAS, and to develop Dr Thomas's understanding of toxic effects for use in his research into the behaviour of chemical pollutants in biota. A specific research project, on the neurotoxicological effects of organophosphorus, carbamate and organochlorine pesticides (individually and in mixtures), will form part of the visit.

Multi-dimensional Soil Erosion and Associated Chemical Transport: Experiments, Mathematical Modelling and Field Evaluation (MultiSEM)

John Quinton - Environmental Science - NERC - 342,724

Phosphorus and sediment are major pollutants of rivers and lakes. While industry and domestic wastewater are an important source, agriculture is thought to contribute a third of the total load of P to UK surface waters. It is therefore important to be able to predict the amount of sediment and phosphorus entering rivers and lakes. This project will seek to develop a model that explicitly describes the transport of contaminants in the solid and solution phase in overland flow and to collect a unique dataset with which to test it. The model will be size selective and integrate sediment and water chemistry, making it better positioned than any other model to estimate the delivery of eroded sediment and associated contaminants to surrounding rivers or streams.

The modelling will be combined with a programme of spatial validation at scales ranging from a few square meters to small catchments. Small scale, well controlled laboratory experiments will take place in Lancaster's rainfall simulation laboratory and in microcosyms at Loughborough University to test the fundamental process descriptions in the model. Field work will link to existing Defra funded work on rare earth element tracing and to work carried out in the USA by the USDA team at Tucson to allow us to develop data sets on sediment sources and transport routes through catchments. This will enable spatial testing of the model.

The Long Term Effects of Family Conflict in Birds

Ian Hartley - Biological Sciences - NERC - 58,214

Family conflicts are widespread and play an important role in the evolution of many behaviours and traits. In birds, for example, sexual conflict, parent-offspring conflict and sibling rivalry are all important components of within-family interactions that can influence survival and reproductive success.

In this project, we will quantify the effects of parent-offspring conflict on variation in offspring growth strategies and quantify the longer term effects of this conflict on traits that influence offspring fecundity. This will add an important dimension to our understanding of the far reaching effects of family conflict and the measurement of evolutionary fitness.

The development of children's false memories

Mark Howe - Psychology - ESRC - 316,016

Memory is fallible and this fallibility as measured in terms of susceptibility to false memory illusions tends to increase not decrease with age in childhood. The current research aims to uncover the factors responsible for this increase and will integrate our understanding of children's false memories with those principles known to affect the development of memory more generally.

The first set of studies examines children's use of very simple associations between concepts, ones that are routinely used to aid true memory, and how those simple associations can go awry and lead children to create false memories. The second series of studies examines the growth in the automaticity of these processes as children's knowledge of how concepts are associated changes with age and experience. These increases in children's knowledge lead to corresponding increases in speed of association which lead in turn to the automatic generation of false memories much the same way they are generated by adults.

Together, these studies will give us a better and more theoretically integrated understanding of the development of children's true and false memories, one that will aid in the development of new forensic procedures that will reduce children's false recollections.

Investigating the reinstatement effect in recognition memory

Steve Dewhurst - Psychology - ESRC - 80,828

According to many influential theories of memory, successful retrieval depends on the degree to which the processes used when attempting to retrieve information overlap with the processes that were used when learning that information. This can be illustrated using the generation effect. If participants in a verbal memory experiment are asked to read some of the words (e.g. TABLE) and generate the others from anagrams (e.g. HIRAC = chair) they are more likely to remember the words they generated.

This advantage is enhanced if participants have to generate the words again when their memory is being tested. However, this 'reinstatement effect' doesn't happen with all tasks. For example, memory for the words that were read during the learning stage is not enhanced if they are read again at the test stage.

The aim of this research is to establish the circumstances under which the reinstatement effect occurs. It is possible that the effect only occurs with tasks that require effortful processing, such as generating from anagrams, and not with tasks that are relatively automatic, such as reading. The research will also investigate the duration of the reinstatement effect and how closely the learning and test processes must overlap in order for the effect to occur.

Research Support Office

Don't forget: The Research Support Office keeps details of potential funding sources on its website, including an up-to-date list of deadlines for specific funding schemes.

News and Events

New LEC Exhibition

From Thursday 22 March LEC's Atrium Gallery will play host to Episodic Realities, an exhibition featuring work by three artists that explores issues connected to the environment. There will be preview evening on Wednesday 21 March from 6.00-8.00pm - call 10223 for details.

Top Maths Prizes for Lancaster Researcher

Congratulations to Mathematics and Statistics' Paul Fearnhead who has been awarded the prestigious Adams Prize in recognition of his research work. The Adams Prize is awarded each year by the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and St John's College to a young, UK based mathematician for first-class international research. Past winners include James Clerk Maxwell, Sir Harold Jeffreys, Sir William Hodge, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose.

Paul has also been awarded the Royal Statistical Society's Guy Medal in Bronze for 2007. This is the top UK statistics prize for early career statisticians, with the silver and gold going to recipients in the middle and at the end of their research careers.

From LU News:

Postgraduate awarded Fellowship to help train for the Olympics

Lancaster postgraduate Michael Aspinall, who aims to compete in the next Olympics, has been awarded a prestigious training award from the Royal Academy of Engineering

Crop company flourishes in partnership with Lancaster Environment Centre

A Lancashire agrochemical company and the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) have forged a research partnership which will find better ways of improving crops without harming the planet

Lesson in climate change

Teachers from across Lancashire and Cumbria went back to the classroom this week as part of a mission to tackle the way climate change is communicated